Japan to tourists: Please don’t lick the tuna

By | January 28, 2009

Frozen tunas bidden at a morning auction are carried on a cart at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo on Monday. Overwhelmed by an increasing number of misbehaving tourists at the world's largest seafood market, Tokyo fishmongers temporarily banned all visitorsTourists are known for acting silly, but licking the tuna?

Overwhelmed by a growing number of misbehaving tourists, Tokyo fishmongers banned all visitors from one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations – the pre-dawn tuna auctions at the world’s largest seafood market.

The ban, imposed during the peak New Year buying season, was front-page news before it was lifted last week. Now, the tourists are back, but the debate goes on: Can tourists be trusted around the tuna?

“We understand that the sight of hundreds of frozen tuna looks unique and interesting for foreign tourists,” said Yoshiaki Takagi, deputy director of the market. “But they have to understand the Tsukiji market is a professional place, not an amusement park.”

One of the more notorious recent cases was that of a tipsy British tourist – caught on tape by a Japanese TV crew – who licked the head of a frozen tuna and patted its gill. Two others, also caught on video, rode around on a cart used by wholesalers. “Get out! Get out!” an irate market official shouted in English.

“Tuna is a very expensive fish,” Takagi said. “One tuna can easily cost more than 1 million yen ($11,000). But some tourists touch them and even try to hug them.”

Fed up, the market decided to impose the ban.

So, when on Jan. 5, a premium bluefin tuna fetched 9.63 million yen – more than $107,000, the highest price in nearly a decade – no tourists were anywhere in sight. The restriction was lifted on Jan. 19, despite some grumbling from the fishmongers.

After the ban was lifted, the market began distributing leaflets at the entrance of the tuna auction site in English, Chinese, Korean and Russian, as well as Japanese. Along with the no-flash warning, it tells visitors to stay within the observation area and leave promptly after the auctions, which open at 5 a.m.

The post-ban crowds have been better behaved.

fter the ban was lifted, the market beg

via Japan to tourists: Please don’t lick the tuna.

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